Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Filibuster Compromised

I am, as you may know, in favor of the Filibuster for the role it plays in forcing the political argument toward the middle. The Tyranny of the Majority must be resisted. I am also inclined to approve of compromise, where people honestly agree to take a little and give a little.

So, we’ve compromised. Out of a slate of judges, the Democratic centrists have agreed to reject only two for now. In exchange, the Republican centrists agree not to eliminate the filibuster as an option. These fourteen centrist politicians can dictate terms to the rest of the Senate because they are the only ones not nailed to the floor.

A lot of the Democrats cannot, because of strong feelings, accept any of the judges. If, however, they try to filibuster without authorization, the swing Democrats will join the cloture vote. Most of these dogmatic Democrats will, in the end, go along with the majority in order to preserve the appearance of party unity. Similarly, a lot of the Republicans cannot allow the evil Dems to have any influence whatsoever. If, however, they try to impose their will without authorization, the swing Republicans will vote against the rules change, allowing a filibuster to continue. If that's all there were to it, I might feel more comfortable than I do.

The Tyranny of Swing

Swing voters who successfully resist party discipline have a lot of power. Since they don't care about the issues too much, they get to decide which way the body will vote. They make the decisions, but they also profit in other ways if they so choose. These guys, especially the Republicans, are now in an unassailable position. They can pick or choose which candidates to accept. And they can be open to persuasion, or open for business if you will. The price of persuasion might be exorbitant.

Now, I am a great admirer of John McCain, and I am pleased that there is the possibility he could run for President again. This time he has a little ammo, though. He might be tempted to use it. He could, for instance, accept conservative entreaties promoting a particular judicial candidate in exchange for consideration. Sure, he might say, not a problem, just bring me the head of Bill Frist (he may already have it), or maybe a fat highway bill with all the trimmings. Do I really think he would do this? No, not consciously, he wouldn't, but he and his "cabal" are frighteningly well positioned.

As for the Democrats, the swingers may have benefited, but I think the party as a whole really lost a lot here. They still have the Filibuster, but only theoretically. As soon as they try to use it, the "cabal" can let them have it with both barrels. They would have been better off using the denial-of-service attack that they had planned as revenge. They would have lost on some of the issues, but at least they would establish their willingness to fight, much more important in the long run.

Overall, I guess I'm happier to have the Republican centrists in charge rather than letting either extreme prevail. Nevertheless, I suggest we keep our eyes on these guys.

5/24/2005 3:28 PM

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At Thursday, May 26, 2005 3:49:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

your comment regarding the tyranny of the majority is relevant. At times it seems the popular stampede of the time can lead to foolish decisons in the name of "the majority" The political version of "argumentum ad populum",,so sorry, but the majority can be wrong and we need to protect ourselves against it. The filibuster is just such a way to accomplish this in extremis

At Friday, May 27, 2005 2:59:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Not just in extremis. The threat of filibuster is always there. Senators know not to waste their time on any legislation that doesn't stand a chance of pleasing three fifths of the other senators. Sometimes they have provide inducements to make progress. Usually they can concentrate on the swing voters.


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